Monthly Archives: May 2018

Considering Compassion

Empathy is defined as having the capacity to have awareness of, or understand, what another may have experienced, thought, or felt.  As a professional counselor, being empathetic to my clients – and now also my students – is an essential trait and skill I am continually working on enhancing.  But I wonder, is empathy enough?

Hearing and witnessing another person’s struggles and trials is what is called for as a counselor.  However, in the profession it calls for a bit more than just being empathetic.  It is our desire to help others navigate those ups and downs in life that gets more to the heart of what we do. That desire to do something about another hurting taps into our compassion.

I think that compassion is our empathy for others put into action.  I also think that compassion is a trait we all have and can strengthen it as a skill.  The quote from Desmond Tutu, a South African cleric and theologian Nobel Prize winner, alerts us that should we be compassionate to be prepared for action.  He further states that compassion is demanding.  This is such a truth. Compassion is a call of action to our passion to help others.

“Compassion is not just feeling with someone, but seeking to change the situation. Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action!” ~ Desmond Tutu 

I hope that we can all consider compassion over only our empathy.  So many things in this world leave us battered and bruised, but compassion can help change things.  Compassion for others, as well as compassion for ourselves.  Be kind.  Be compassionate. Consider what compassion is to you.

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My One Word…the late edition

Many years ago, I was introduced to the concept of My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen through my then boyfriend (now husband) and his family through Port City Church in Wilmington, NC.  The idea is that you take some time to reflect on yourself, identify characteristics or aspects of who/what you would like to become, and pick one word that will give you focus for the whole year.

By selecting one word, you will be able to experience growth and change through focusing on one representation over the year.  It is sort of like very concentrated singular form of a New Year’s resolution, only with a more positive outlook on how this characteristic can impact every area of your life; rather than the usual list of “things” to do for improvement.  There is a bit more to it than just that, but it is the quick overview of it.  I’m not explaining it thoroughly, but Mike and Rachel do a wonderful job in their book (which I highly recommend!) and walk you through each step with great examples.   Click here to find out a bit more.

It also takes the Christian perspective of seeing how God works in your life by using your word as a lens.  Choosing a word, keeping it in front of you as a reminder, journaling about your process and reflections is an awesome experience.  I have witnessed some amazing growth when committing to this for the whole year.  For the past year or so, I have not had a word that has really held traction.  I’ve been in graduate school (again) and have been very much steeped in self-reflection and growth. Nevertheless, I’ve seen the development and God’s involvement.

In January, I did try to find a word for 2018.  I re-read the book, wrote down some words, prayed about them, thought about them, and then got super bogged down in school-work and teaching.  Quite honestly I never got peace and clarity about any of those potential words I identified before claiming my one.  However, I believe that my God is on-time, perfect time with His delivery and I have gotten that word now.

But a brief back story first.  As I said, I am in graduate school working on my doctoral (PhD) in counseling and am in my dissertation phase.  The start of this past school year (2017-2018) I initially was on track to work on my own research and graduate in May.  Early in the fall semester, I realized that I should not be on such a fast track and wanted to push my time line out until May 2019 as my anticipated graduation.  I had not had much traction on my research and writing, so this was a wise decision.  Around December-January, things started to work out with my first few chapters in my dissertation.  I had identified my topic, located some awesome instruments to measure some cool things about what I wanted to include in my research, and I had completed one of the difficult parts in my writing.  In April, everything about my dissertation fell apart.

When I was trying to gain permission to use the instruments in a way that would allow me to collect data in the most efficient way for both my potential participants and my study, I was denied.  The only way to use one of the instruments was in a way that would make it extremely difficult to connect data or would lead to participants dropping out or not participating due to the complex way they would have to share data with me.  My soul was crushed, but I persisted.  I maintained contact to see what all ways things could be worked out or changed, but I do not have that time/funding/resources/mental stamina for those paths in a dissertation.  I finally made the decision, along with my dissertation chair, to let that go and re-examine.  Without this one thing, my whole research fell flat and would not work the same with something else in place.  I realized that most likely I would have to start over.

A harsh realization at the end of April…especially now only having a year left on my targeted graduation.

Here is where I finally got my word.  Rather than freak out (which I would be prone to do in this situation), I pressed pause so I could finish out the remainder of my obligations for the semester and neatly “dumped” it into God’s hands.  I recall praying and almost just saying “Well, this is a big mess, so what are you going to have me do now?”.  Thankfully He answered and thankfully I listened.  The only response that came over my mind and soul was: COMPASSION.

So, I’m starting in May for 2018-2019 with my one word as Compassion.  I’m figuring out what all this means and how this connects with my next steps in my dissertation journey.  Maybe this will be that new topic.  Maybe it will mean for me to have more compassion towards myself.  Just maybe I needed more of a specific focus for the school year rather than the calendar year.  We will figure it out.  More to come on that I guess. 🙂

In the book there are two quotes that stand out for me:  “Change is possible, but focus is required.” Yep!  And the other one:  “The secret to concentration is elimination.”  Oh yes! Time for me to change my focus and concentrate on compassion.